200 Years of Catholic Education – Beyond ‘Toward 2025’

Can you remember any significant birthdays in your life? I remember my 13th birthday and my parents organised a wonderful party which I looked forward to. Some of my friends were also excited and arrived a few hours early. I remember my presents which included a complete football outfit with boots and the colours of my favourite team Ajax Amsterdam – yes Johan Cruijff was my favourite player. Did you see his surname has the same ‘ij’ combination as in Rijken and Cardijn? He is well known as one of the greatest football players in history subscribing to the total football philosophy. I remember him leading the Netherlands to the World Cup final against Germany in 1974 which the Netherlands lost 2-1. I remember my 18th, 21st, 30th, 40th and yes others more recent. They are significant celebrations.

Last week Catholic Education celebrated 200 years in Australia. It is recorded in history that a small school began in Sydney in the suburb of Parramatta in 1820. It began on the site where today we see Parramatta Marist High School – a school in the Marist tradition like Cardijn College. It is well known in South Australia that our Australian Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop began our first schools in South Australia. Today, Catholic Education in Australia provides education to just over 780,000 students and employment to over 90,000 staff. In South Australia just over 48,000 students are in Catholic schools with over 6000 staff. At Cardijn College we have journeyed from our humble beginnings in 1984 with 102 students and 12 staff to 1785 students and over 240 staff in 2021.

Our Catholic schools have major influence and impact on the young people in our schools to be educated to face a complex and unknown future. The impact is also economic with Catholic schools contributing to the economy on many levels. The Catholic Church involved in education, health, community services, housing, aged care is one of the largest employers in our country. 200 years in Catholic education is an amazing milestone and birthday. There is much to celebrate about our history, our present and hope for our future.

At Cardijn College alone, our School Board has begun our strategic thinking BEYOND our Toward 2025 directions and priorities. This includes our building program and educational provision for not the next five years but indeed 10 to 15 years. Our infrastructure is designed to last the next 30 years with enough flexibility and capacity to be adaptable. Did you know that our current gymnasium is nearly 20 years old? It still looks new and contemporary even iconic, but is no longer big enough to cater for our size. That is why we are in conversation with the State Government, Council and sporting groups to build a 4-court Community Stadium adjacent to Cardijn with further expansion of our school on the land adjacent to Cardijn College. When we calculated the cost of realising our masterplan across our three campuses it amounts to 70-100 million dollars. This alone is a significant commitment and will have an enormous impact and influence in our community and into the future.

There is much to celebrate at Cardijn College. Student academic success, opportunities for students, transitions to apprenticeships, further education and jobs and most of all an outstanding community grounded in our Catholic faith and a support system which is focussed on families thriving and being part of this Cardijn family in the Marist tradition.

Dr Paul Rijken is principal of Cardijn College, an R-12 co-educational Catholic school in the Marist tradition, deeply inspired by the method of College patron Joseph Cardijn with a foundation built on the three pillars of his teachings; to See, Judge and Act. Educating and inspiring students in the beautiful Southern Vales region of Adelaide since 1984, Cardijn has grown to encompass three schools, each with distinct offerings. Cardijn College Galilee at Aldinga offers Reception to Year 7, expanding to include Year 8 in 2022 and Year 9 in 2023. Cardijn College at Noarlunga Downs offers Years 7-12 and is renowned for academic excellence and a vibrant extra-curricular program. Cardijn College Marcellin at Christie Downs provides a wide variety of vocational education and training opportunities for students in Years 10 – 12 and beyond, with relationships that extend well into their careers. With a current enrolment of 1750 students and 240 staff, Cardijn College is an institution which strives to be a beacon of faith in the community, with students who have enormous influence and impact on both a local and global level. Paul has been the principal at Cardijn College since 2005. He has a Ph.D. from Curtin University in Science and Mathematics Education. He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educational Leaders.

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